Capitol Corner July 2020


Centralina has applied for nearly $499,560 in planning assistance under U.S. DOT’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or BUILD, Transportation Discretionary Grant Program. The request is to fund the development of a regional, bi-state Transportation Systems Management and Operations (TSMO) Vision and Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) Strategic Deployment Plan. Building on recommendations of the region’s growth plan, CONNECT Our Future, and the Regional Freight Mobility Plan, this effort will identify how we use technology to increase the capacity of existing and planned transportation corridors and coordinate investments regionwide to improve transportation safety and reliability. The BUILD application is a collaboration between two state DOTs, five MPOs, two RPOs and four councils of government and will impact 5,000 square miles of more than 2.5 million people. A summary sheet on the TSMO-ITS effort is here.

On June 30th, Centralina held a briefing call with U.S. DOT that also included bicameral, bipartisan support from our congressional delegation. Special thanks to the offices of U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, and the offices of Congressman Dan Bishop and Alma Adams for participating in the briefing call and reiterating support for the application. We also appreciate the letters of support that are being received from these offices and others who could not participate in the call, including Congressmen Budd, Hudson and McHenry.

U.S. DOT received more than 600 applications, of which 150 applications were for planning grants. Awards will be announced by the federal agency no later than September 15.


Senate GOP leadership introduced their plan on July 27 for the fifth coronavirus relief package. Called the “Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act,” the plan does not include additional funding for state and local governments. Instead, flexibility was added for the previously funded Coronavirus Relief Fund allowing that CARES Act money to be spent past the original December 30, 2020 deadline, and uses of relief payments expanded to include lost revenue. However, only 25 percent of these funds could be used towards revenue shortfalls. The HEALS Act is a $1 trillion package set up as a series of smaller bills for piecemeal approach to address expiring items quickly while leaving other issues to be tackled with more time to negotiate. The plan includes additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program; renewal of unemployment benefits, although reduced; another round of checks to individuals; liability limits for employers; funds to help with school re-openings; and investments in testing, hospitals, child care and workforce training.

The Senate plan is considered the starting point for negotiations. Senate Republicans and the Trump Administration do not want this next phase to exceed $1 trillion, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has rejected that cap. House and Senate Democrats have also pushed back against a piecemeal approach. State and local assistance, in addition to flexibility, is a priority that many believe still has a chance to be included in a final package.

The House had planned to be in recess all of August, with the Senate planned recess to start August 7. House leadership will now be in session for at least another week with the hope an agreement can be reached. However, given how far apart the two sides are on the size and scope of the next package, it may take the rest of the summer to reach a deal both sides can support. It is also likely that this next installment will be the last before the November elections.